A Great Resource…

Pike Township Residents Association (PTRA) is a non-profit organization founded in 1972 that provides a forum for Pike Township neighbors to discuss regional and local neighborhood concerns such as land use, development, parks, and recreation, transportation, schools, drainage and sewage problems, water supply, area beautification, etc. PTRA serves as an umbrella organization for local neighborhood associations as well as serving the needs of individual residents and businesses. PTRA meets on the second Wednesday of each month at 7:00 PM at the Pike Township Government Center (5665 Lafayette Road) and this meeting is open to the public. (ptra.net)

It is a great time to meet PTRA Board members, the Mayor’s Neighborhood Advocate, City Council representatives, representatives from the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and Prosecutor’s Office, special guests, etc.

Meeting agendas are posted a day or two before the meetings on the PTRA website.

The Cell Tower Jungle

I love technology. Before I was a Realtor, I was a computer programmer. I wrote business programs for a good size company in Park 100. I find that technology most always makes our lives easier.

One of the most popular changes in our lives was the invention of the portable cell phone. Over the years our cell phones do more and more things to make our lives easier.

With all new technology, there is a price to pay. With instant access to make a phone call anywhere, internet access, emailing and texting comes cell towers. Something that is required to have all of these conveniences.

You might say that is a small price to pay, until they want to put a cell tower in your neighborhood. That is exactly what happened at 6401 Zionsville Road. Two years ago a church bought and built on this 13 acre lot. The back end of this lot is a wooded area not usable by the church. The church had to get zoning to build on this lot. Pike Township Residents Association had several meetings where plans were spelled out, neighbors voiced their opinions and commitments were made by the church.

Now comes AT&T wanting to put up 150 foot cell tower in the east backend of the lot. They need a zoning variance in order to put up their cell tower and ground equipment. This would benefit the church because AT&T would pay them a good chunk of rent to use the space. Being a preachers kid, (yes, Rev. Lord) I understand that churches sometimes survive on a wing and a prayer. Being a Realtor I also understand how a cell tower inside or near a community can decrease property values.

At the Pike Township Residents Meeting on June 12th it was near standing room only. Many neighbors from surrounding communities were there to voice their “no cell tower” opinions. It was suggested maybe the cell tower could be put on Pike Schools property directly to the north. AT&T had already approached them and they said “No”. A PTRA Board member who had also worked for Pike Schools before he retired said “let me talk to them.”

At the PTRA July 10th meeting, this petition was on the agenda but was continued. It seems that they are still in discussions with Pike Schools about a place to put the cell tower. Most likely it will be on the August PTRA agenda. (ptra.net)

In my opinion, where ever they decide the best place for the cell tower will be, the City of Indy will approve it. That said, I am surprised that Northwestway Park is not loaded with cell towers. Maybe the City has no problem with approving cell tower locations except when it is their property.

Morning Madness

One of my least favorite ways of waking up in the morning is by barking dogs. At 6:00 AM when I look outside my window, I see my neighbor has tied up their two dogs on their open patio with them nowhere in sight. I find this to be most inconsiderate. Especially during the summer months when children are sleeping in and parents are enjoying their morning coffee.

The dogs are still out at 7:30 AM when I leave my house for work. Once they notice me walking to my car, the barking is continuous until I shut my car door.

I notice my same neighbors, when outside with their dogs, do not put one of their dogs on lease. They just let it lose roaming around.

On top of all of this, they don’t pick up their dogs poop. This is in a common area where children play ball. I am sure parents love when their kids come inside from playing tracking dog poop into their homes.

As a Realtor, these are things that buyers don’t like and sometimes won’t buy in a neighborhood because of these types of inconsiderations. Believe me, when I say in my 17 years selling houses, I have seen buyers hesitate for much less. Things like this tend to make buyers discount a house. This tends to make the community what I call a “discounted community.”

As a side note, I wish I had a nickel for every time I was showing buyers houses where we had to be EXTREMELY careful where we stepped while walking around the backyard of a dog owner’s house.

Ignorance of the law is no excuse. The City of Indianapolis Municipal Code 531 Article II spells out all the requirements for dog owners. It covers all my pet peeves listed above. (https://bit.ly/2LdOIrV)

I have nothing against dogs. I just think that dog ownership comes with civic responsibilities.

Fireworks and the Aftermath…

It seems this city has a love/hate relationship with fireworks. Depending on the year, the political climate and the changing ordinances, you never know what to expect. I cannot remember when two consecutive years were the same. This leaves residents in a quandary. On top of it all, I don’t think the city can enforce the rules or even wants to. Even if they tried, I don’t believe they could be successful.

I read on Nextdoor numerous complaints from residents about fireworks being used after required hours, dogs being bothered by the noise, and messes it creates. It seems there are no easy fixes.

Don’t get me wrong. July 4th is a wonderful day to celebrate our countries independence. Especially this year when I decided to take a 4 day weekend. I love fireworks and would like to see them in a well-organized area (maybe Northwestway Park) with supervision. I don’t want to see them in your normal Pike neighborhoods where there can be a high liability for homeowners associations and residents.

I have lived in the same Pike neighborhood for 30 years. I also have been and currently on the Board of Directors of my homeowner’s association. We have been fortunate to have had private security patrol our neighborhood. This has helped tremendously around the 4th. You see, we don’t allow fireworks in my community. That said, it does not stop residents from saying “never heard of that rule.”

20 years ago I would walk through the community picking up used fireworks and filling several trash bags. This year I could have done the same seeing that our private security did not show up. The evening of the 4th was like a war zone in my community.

As a 17 year Realtor specializing in Pike Township properties, I understand what it takes to sell communities. Seeing tons of used fireworks in the streets is not what buyers want to see.

What happens when one of these fireworks chasers go off and ends up under a car and starts a fire?

What happens when a skyrocket with its sparks starts a fire on top of the roof of a house?

What happens when firecrackers start a fire in a driveway where the residents have been working on their cars and have left oil, gas and flammable liquids on the ground?

Again, this is not what potential buyers want to see in a neighborhood.

What is the solution? I don’t have one. What I want is Pike residents to be able to sell their homes when they want to and not be challenged by July 4th aftermath. Is it too much to ask Pike residents to be responsible and realize that their actions have consequences?

Janice McHenry Town Hall Meeting Recap and Behavior

NOTE – Terry Mitchell wrote the following comment on Nextdoor.com about the Town Hall meeting last night.

I just wanted to recap my takeaways from last nights town hall meeting held by Janice McHenry, First of all, there is a billboard proposal on the books for Indianapolis, and that was presented well and is important to get support, please reach out to the appropriate people and support the effort of that proposal on January 14th, I know I will.

Indy Parks was invited and present at the meeting to talk about (among other things) their recent Lilly Grant that was won, it encompasses a $2.6 million dollar plan to develop the west side of the park, which would put in ADA accessible hiking trails, but not in (as refereed to by the Indy Parks staff) “Eagle Creek Proper”, putting instead the ADA trails away from the other amenities offered in a totally segregated part of the park. Hoosier Mountain Bike Association(HMBA) had a large(approximately half) showing at the town hall meeting, and despite our best efforts to work with Eagle Creek on proper development of these trails as multi use to reach the broadest group of users possible, HMBA and the mountain biking community has been shut out by Indy Parks. When questions arose by the mountain biking community at the end of Indy Parks presentations as to why an entire user group who is passionate and willing to volunteer to build trails, fundraiser for trails, and most importantly stay around to maintain the trails once they are built, Janice McHenry shut the meeting down saying; This is MY meeting and we are not here to talk about mountain biking at MY parks. In a conversation with Brittany Davis Swinford(Eagle Creek Park Senior Manager) after the meeting she said; I am the park manager and I get to determine which user groups can use the park. And Don Colvin(Deputy Director of Indy Parks) repeatedly said in that same conversation; that there is no such thing as multi use trails. It is clear that none of these people are willing to listen to public input about the future of the park and that they want to have it their way.

While both Brittany Davis and Don Colvin are not in elected positions, their direct boss and Director of Indy Parks Linda Broadfoot is appointed by our elected officials, and needs to hold her employees responsible for making the parks the best that they can be.

Please see the attached document, outlining the poor performance of Indy Parks (ranked 98th out of 98 in 2017) then I would encourage you to reach out to your City County Council member and let them know that it is important that our elected officials follow the guidance of their constituents.

We should NEVER allow politicians and employees of the government who think that OUR parks are THEIRS and theirs alone to do what they want making decisions. If you would like more information about mountain biking and its impact on the economy and our natural resources, or to have a conversation about any of this, I would encourage you to reach out, I would love to sit down over a cup of coffee and talk about/answer any questions, and if I can’t answer them, I can hopefully point you in the direction of someone who can!

District 6 Project Information

Terry Mitchell

I Became A Pike Schools Ambassador

Earlier this year I was invited to Pike Schools with a group of people to learn about the schools, be introduced to staff/teachers, experience a school bus ride and have dinner at their High School restaurant that was run by students. Pike Schools have come a long way since my son graduated there in 2002. Their High School studies now include Barbering, Cosmetology, Criminal Justice, Emergency Medical Services, Health Sciences, Culinary Arts & Hospitality and HVAC.

I was amazed. Touring the halls of the High School I felt like I needed GPS.

In the past I always volunteered for Realtor Day Breakfast helping Sarah Dorsey (Communications Officer) with contacting all the Realtors. Realtor Day had always included a short tour of the High School and Freshman Center. Pike Ambassadors program was on 4 different days a month apart. It was much more extensive and at some of the other Pike schools.

I just received the following certificate and picture of the group.

What you may not know about Pike Schools

Update On Saddlebrook Golf Course

The company that owned the golf course defaulted on a 2.4 million dollar bank loan in 2015. The bank took over the property. In March 2016 they tried to auction the property. Nobody came close to the $650,000 required starting bid. It attracted offers from apartment builders which is not what the community wanted. In the meanwhile the golf course was slowing showing signs of neglect.

In comes Danville-based Green Golf Partners. They have purchased the course as long as the community can raise $300,000 to bring back the course to playing condition. This was the only way a prospective buyer would be interested. The fund raising is close to its goal. The incentive to the homeowners in the community was losing up to $10,000 market value of their homes without a golf course.

From a Realtors perspective, Saddlebrook was always a desirable community with stable market values, well maintained properties and integrated with a golf course which attracts a lot of buyers. It is wonderful to see the community react the way they did. It shows that they have a good interest/investment in their community and are willing to go the extra mile and do what it takes to be a vibrant and energetic. Makes a Realtor very proud to sell Saddlebrook.

For more information on the history;
Friends of Saddlebrook

Inventory Shortage

To a Realtor, our inventory is how many active houses are on the market currently. Today there is an extremely low inventory. To give you an example, 10 years ago at this time of year there would be 1000+ houses on the market in Pike Township. Today there are only about 140. I would call that an inventory shortage.

This would be a blessing for new home builders except they are not building low end or starter houses, at least not around Pike Township. Currently the only houses built in Pike are in the $300,000+ price point. The average price in Pike is about $150,000 according to 2016 numbers. Builders can’t seem to make any money selling low end housing. The main reason is because low end buyers don’t buy a lot of upgrades and add-ons. That is where builders make their money. In a $300,000 house the buyer may upgrade and add on about $50,000. In a $150,000 house the buyer may upgrade and add on about $10,000.

Take a drive through Zionsville where the average price of a house in 2016 was about $400,000. There are all kinds of new housing developments being built by all the major builders. Builders tend to follow the money.

This presents a new problem for the home owners that want to move up. They are afraid to list their house for fear they may not find another house to buy. One work around is to sell their present house and rent an apartment for a couple of months until they find a new home. The challenge becomes, where do you find a place to rent for a couple of months in this market of sky high rental prices. Also very few buyers want to make 2 moves. The options are limited.

Usually when homeowners want to buy a better house, they tend to buy a house that is 1.5 times the value of their current house. Taking the Pike average home sale and adding half again you get $225,000. Currently there are 8 houses for sale in the Pike in the $200,000 to $250,000 range. Through extrapolation if you had 1000+ homes on the market, there would be 50+ in that price range.

If the average homeowner in Pike does find the perfect upgrade house for them, you can pretty much guarantee that there will be multiple offers on the house and that there will be a bidding war. Bidding wars only benefit the seller and not the buyers. In 2016 there were 148 out of 1126 (13%) houses sold where the sold price was higher than the list price. One house in Crooked Creek Heights sold for $26,000 over list price.

There may be a light at the end of the tunnel for builders and entry level housing. Some builders are catering to the entry level buyer by building more spec homes. What are spec homes? When a builder builds a home or many homes on the speculation of what a buyer might want. They are not custom homes. A builder comes up with some plans on their own and builds them hoping that buyers will like them enough to buy them. This reduces builder’s costs. What costs? Normally when a buyer wants to build with a home builder, there is hours of design time with the builders sales people, inspections during the home building process and final walk throughs. With the buyer is not pre involved, the builder can work start to finish much faster.

Ten years ago during the housing markets peak and before the down turn; builders had all kinds of spec homes for sale. Problem was that when the market took a down turn, the builders were left with spec homes they could not sell or had to sell at a loss. Today builders are very weary to build a lot of spec homes.

My 17 years’ experience with Pike Township Residents Association and the presentations of many builders asking for zoning changes so they can do what they want tells me that when they do entry level housing that they pack them in as tight as they can get away with. Apparently it is the only way they can afford to do a new community. One of the biggest concerns that PTRA has is density. It is a struggle between the builder, the surrounding neighborhoods, the city, the school system and PTRA. All want different things and have different ideas.

I suspect that the shortage of inventory will go on for a couple more years. There is less and less of available land in Pike Township to build on. New communities that have affordable housing in Pike sells out quickly. Because of the shortage, baby boomers and empty nesters are buying the $300,000+ new homes much quicker than in the past in Pike.

Over the past 7 years several Real Estate Investment Trusts came into the Metropolitan Indianapolis market and bought thousands of entry level houses to fix up and rent. During the housing market crash, a lot of homeowners lost their homes to foreclosure. They had to find homes to rent since they could not finance another home right away. During this period rents sky rocketed. I suspect we are now in a time where rents cannot go much higher without making buying a home look extremely advantageous financially. If the REIT’s decide that they want out, it could flood the market with affordable housing.

Only time will tell.

Tim Lord

Please Note – All numbers came from the Metropolitan Board of Realtors (MIBOR) Broker Listing Cooperative. Information Deemed Reliable but not Guaranteed.